Thursday, August 20, 2009
Shaken Then Stirred
First the jubilent fist pump, then the crossed armed "YEEES!!", Garrett Mock was excited. In a huge bind with two outs in a scoreless ball game with The Colorado Rockies in the top of the 5th frame, Our Number 49 believed he had struck out Carlos Gonzalez on a pitch in the dirt. A swinging strike three called by Home Plate Umpire Hunter Wendlestedt that Our Washington Nationals Josh Bard scooped out of the dirt and triumphantly raised his glove hand while beginning to walk toward Washington's Dugout.
Threat ended, inning over, even The Between Frame Music at Nationals Park had begun to play.
At least until, sort of out of nowhere, 2nd Base Umpire Doug Eddings ruled Gonzalez had FOULED OFF THE PITCH and since Bard had not caught the baseball before it touched dirt--The Rox Outfielder was still alive, still at the plate with two runners on the basepaths.
Manager Jim Riggleman came out to argue--vehemently. First Base Umpire Dana DaMuth joined the fray. Watching live at the ballpark, we don't have reply on the controversial calls, so we can only assume the call was correct. But, clearly, the very fact that Carlos Gonzalez was granted new life--changed the tone of this very close game.
When your pitcher has battled all evening on one of the most oppressively hot and humid nights all season, you certainly don't want to see him attempt to get a fourth out, when only three were needed. And this was a night where energy needed to be stored, not sapped away from extra effort.
But that is exactly what happened. Shaken after being so high just moments earlier, the Young Garrett Mock began to unravel. Composure slightly lost when Carlos Gonzalez literally flicked his bat at the very next pitch after the delay--an overiding fastball--that Gonzalez looped into No Man's Land. A not so hard hit baseball that fell to earth just out of Ryan Zimmerman's outstretched glove--who was running hard out toward short left field.
Hustling all the way, Zimmy just missed what would have been the official final out--a fitting reversal for what most first thought, moments earlier, was the final out of the frame.
Of course, as only happens in baseball, Colorado's Clint Barmes then scored this game's first run on Carlos' 150 foot double.
Now stirred--Garrett Mock unfurled a wild pitch scoring Yorvit Torrealba with The Rockies second and most important run of this game. The eventual winning run.
Sure, Our Number 49 would go on to strikeout Ryan Spilborghs to finally end this controversial frame, but the damage had already been done. With The Colorado Rockies Starting Pitching dominating Our Washington Nationals during this three game set, that two run advantage might as well been ten--for Our Offense never really got untracked--for the third straight evening.
Blame it on cold bats on a hot night. Give credit to strong opposing pitching. Or, believe all Washington's energy has just been zapped. After their hottest stretch of play this season followed by the signing of Stephen Strasburg on Monday and the hiring of Mike Rizzo as Senior Vice-President and General Manager today--there seemed to be little left to give on the field.
Whatever you believe and whatever the final outcome--remember this: When 2nd Base Umpire Doug Eddings overruled Home Plate Umpire Hunter Wendlestedt on Carlos Gonzalez' supposed strikeout, Garrett Mock was shaken--then stirred. He momentarily lost his focus. Composure--that eventually cost him this game.
Final Score from Nationals Park where The African Queen wondered all night how much hotter the D.C. humidity would have felt, if this game was played at RFK Stadium (where the air never moved), The Colorado Rockies 4 and Our Washington Nationals 1. A three game sweep in The Nation's Capital giving The Rox a season sweep as well--six straight wins over Washington.
When D.C's team is not producing enough runs--any ruling that changes any close game looms big. And when The Colorado Rockies threw out on the mound on South Capitol Street three impressive quality starts in a row this week--one little hiccup--as Mock discovered tonight--will get you beat.
How about them Rockies? What a turnaround from earlier this year. National League Wild Card Leaders at this point in the schedule after firing their manager earlier this season. And Colorado showed these past three games in Washington what good teams always do to stay ahead. In close games, they capitalize on the little things given--no matter how small--in order to win.
Taking command, something Our Washington Nationals still need to learn.
Game Notes & Highlights
Yeah, he took the loss and he was beaten on a blooper, but Garrett Mock will learn from tonight's unfortunate turn of events. What he did show, boldly this evening, was the spirit of a bulldog. That competitive nature formed inside oneself after having gained confidence. The belief he now belongs in The Big Leagues after three consecutive good starting assignments. Mock struck out eight Rockies tonight. He allowed just three hits and walked two. And he was fired up all night--at least until that overturned call in the 5th. There was some good stuff tonight to take from The Big Texan. He has nothing to be ashamed of.
Sean Burnett pitched a fabulous 2.1 innings in relief of Mock, striking out three before handing the ball over to Jason Bergmann, who combined with Tyler Clippard to allow the final two Rockies scores of the evening--all with two outs--by the big three in The Rox Lineup--Single by Todd Helton, doubles by Troy Tulowitzki and Brad Hawpe.
Washington's only score came in the bottom of the 6th when Adam Dunn doubled Cristian Guzman home after "The Guz" had reached on a fielder's choice, stole 2nd and had advanced to third on a Ryan Zimmerman ground out. One of only two real threats against Colorado Starter Jason Hammel who tossed seven strong innings. And Hammel better thank his 3rd Baseman, Ian Stewart, who dove to his left, outstretched his glove as far as he humanly could on the ground ball smashed by Elijah Dukes with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 4th. With Ryan Zimmerman certain to score and maybe Adam Dunn as well from 2nd--Stewart stopped Dukes' grounder, got up to his knees and threw a perfect strike to Clint Barmes at 2nd base to retire the sliding Josh Willingham for The Defensive Play of This Game.
Stewart would actually receive The Golden Sombrero--striking out four consecutive times at the plate. But he flashed a gold glove on that run scoring play and on another in the bottom of the 5th when Pinch Hitter, Jorge Padilla, smashed another grounder, this time over the 3rd Base Bag--pulling Ian well behind the base. While backhanding the baseball in his glove and still falling further away from 1st Base--Ian Stewart got just enough mustard on his toss to throw out Padilla by a step at first base. Ian Stewart, former catcher, who knew he was a defensive wizard? But both were very nice defensive plays.
Rafael Betancourt struck out three of the four Washington Batters he faced in relief of Jason Hammel in the bottom of the 8th. But what was more fascinating about his effort--was how Betancourt pitched from the stretch position. This picture above doesn't do this comment justice, but after "The Guz" had singled with two out--Rafael looked in for the sign from his catcher. Then, after setting himself before the start of his motion--Betancourt would rock his planted feet back and forth--taking his cleats off the mound and the rubber momentarily. Why is that not a balk? Yeah, I understand it's a consistent motion he does on every pitch--but it still doesn't make it correct by the rules. It's distracting and plays to his advantage against both runners and batters faced.
Teddy came from behind late to take the lead in the 4th inning Presidents Race. And just when most everyone in the announced crowd of 18,036 believed Our Lovable Loser might just win--he pulled a muscle and never finished--having to be helped off the field by Screech and a NatPacker. Tom taking the honors for the 19th time this season.
For at least the 4th time to our recollection, Screech backflipped off the rolled up tarp stored down the 1st baseline during the 6th inning tee-shirt launch at Nationals Park.
Beginning Friday, August 21st and running throughout the remainder of this weekend--The First Ladies of Our Washington Nationals will be at Centerfield Gate collecting School Supplies for a third consecutive year. Donations to be accepted until the 4th inning during each of the next three home games. A needy D.C. Public School will receive the school supplies before the school season begins this fall.
And finally--Jesus Flores was in uniform tonight. Not activated, but still rehabbing, it was nice to see him hanging around his teammates in the dugout at Nationals Park. His chances of even playing again this season--not likely--as much as it may be killing him, and us, inside.
Tonight's InGame Photos--Luis M. Alvarez (AP)
All Other Photos--Nats320--All Rights Reserved